An unexpected gift from a Target employee

I’ve always known that Target is full of goodness, but that became even more apparent on what turned into a day I’ll always remember.

Even though it started out as a day I wanted to forget.

I’ve been studying for this test called the Series 7 for months now. It’s a six-hour test, so I had been kind of dreading it. I’ve never taken a test that long before, and I didn’t feel like I was ever going to feel 100-percent ready for it. But Tuesday was test day, so I had to be as prepared as I could be.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I passed one of the six kidney stones that were just chillin’ inside of me. The antibiotics I’ve been taking (combined with the pain meds) made it not as awful as it could have been, but I’ll still say that it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. The last thing I wanted to do was go answer 260 complicated multiple choice questions, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to skip or try to cancel it.

She really does give great pep talks, especially if you’re taking a difficult test or freezing in the woods.

That was the hardest freaking test I’ve ever taken in my entire life—and that fact has nothing to do with the kidney stones. After the first 130 questions, you’re required to take at least a 30-minute break (and you’re allowed a full hour) before completing the second half of the exam. During my break, I sat on a chair in the waiting area and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Wheat Thins and thought about how much I did not want to go back to computer 9 in that testing room. I called my mom and got a little pep talk (she’s really good at those), and before I knew it, 30 minutes had gone
by—and it was back to the dungeon I went.

I wish I should share with you some miraculous tale about how I entered this industry I didn’t know and passed this beast of a test that not everyone passes on the first attempt. But I can’t. I failed. I really wanted to cry for so many reasons—the test failure being the cherry on top—but I held back my tears and tried to get out of that testing center as quickly as I could.

And I drove to the one place I thought could cheer me up: Target.

I needed to finish up my Christmas shopping, and I figured focusing on getting things for other people would help me not feel sorry for myself. I mentally started calculating what my total would be once I had all of my items, and I realized it was easily going to be more than $50. I had a coupon I’d gotten from Target in the mail (it treats its frequent customers well) for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more. Then I remembered the coupon was sitting on my kitchen counter.

Of course it was.

I went through the self-checkout lane, and when it was time to pay, I called the gal manning the area over to explain my situation. She seemed new and like she didn’t know what to do, so she said she would ask about it. Then she called over Joe. Joe was not a manager, but he appeared to have a bit more tenure. I re-explained my situation to him, and he said, “Oh, I’ll have to ask my manager about that, but I’m not sure we can honor it.”

At that point, I could no longer hold back my tears, and the floodgates opened up.

It was bad. I usually bottle up tears, so when I finally cry, I’m making up for all of the times I wanted to cry but didn’t. Poor Joe. He had to suffer through the following exchange.

Joe: “Oh, please don’t cry. We’ll try to get it sorted out.”
Me: “I’m not crying about this. You don’t understand, Joe. It’s been a really tough few months. First, a guy broke my heart, and then I got kidney stones and still have them and had to miss a race I’d been training for, and then I failed this really big test I was hoping to pass this morning. I just want to go home.”
Joe: “Don’t you worry—I’ll get this taken care of for you.”

Joe then got on his walkie talkie and told his manager about the coupon mishap. I heard him say, “I really need to do this.” The next thing I knew, Joe suspended my transaction and walked me over to an empty register so he could take off the $10. I was still sobbing like a psycho, and I said I was sorry for crying and making him uncomfortable. Then he said something I wasn’t expecting: “You know what? I’m gonna give you an extra $5. This is on me.” I thanked him a million times and promised I would go home and rip up the coupon I had forgotten (which I did).

It’s not every day that strangers care about your problems. I’m sure Joe has troubles of his own he’s dealing with in his life, and they might be a lot bigger than mine. But he saw a hurting heart in front of him that needed a reminder of what it means to show genuine love to others. He easily could have told me that he understood I was upset and that it was unfortunate I forgot the coupon but that there was nothing he could do about it. But he didn’t—because there was something he could do about it. And he did it.

We’re given multiple opportunities throughout our lives to help others when they truly need it. I know I don’t always take advantage of those chances, but I’m going to try to be more aware of them, thanks in large part to Joe. He reminded me what it means to see what’s right in front of you in each moment you’re handed rather than letting yourself be distracted by what’s next on your agenda.

He also reminded me that, even though we are bombarded daily with all of the horrible things there are in this world, there still is a lot of good out there. Everywhere. It’s in our homes. It’s at our work places. It’s in our relationships. It’s on the roads. It’s in the midst of chaos. It’s in sports. It’s at Target.

On Tuesday morning, I passed a kidney stone. On Tuesday afternoon, I failed a test. And on that same Tuesday, I encountered kindness so powerful that it overshadowed both of those negative experiences and gave me hope that there truly are better days to come.

It’s further proof that love always wins.

Because it really does make more sense

Sometimes Disney is pretty spot-on with its lessons and the songs that go along with them.

Cue High School Musical’s “We’re All in This Together.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a completely imperfect person. I try to be nice and loving to people, but there are certainly times I fail. It’s not easy to be a good person all of the time—impatience, frustration, selfishness and so many things on our agendas often get in the way.

But every once in a while, we need the reminder of how important it is to show people that they matter.

If I’m being perfectly honest, life hasn’t been very easy lately. I’ve been dealing with some different things, and it feels like the troubles (you know, like an inflamed kidney) keep piling on. I’ve been trying to stay positive and hopeful, but some days feel more defeating than others. So, creating a mess on top of the mess I’ve been isn’t exactly ideal.

But it happened, anyway.

I was at Target the other day, and there was a shirt hanging on one of the higher racks against the wall that I needed (yes, it was a necessity) to get down. The shirts were all out of size order, so the size I needed was more in the middle. I’m not sure how the ensuing event occurred, but it did. I was struggling to get the shirt down because of a slight height disadvantage, and I became annoyed and tried yanking the dang thing.

Insert mess.

In doing so, I managed to knock off pretty much the entire front half of that rack, and the shirts spewed all over the place at my feet. I stared at the daunting task before me of putting them all back on the rack I could barely reach (I swear this Target put them higher than most), and I tried not to be upset about it.

But I wanted to cry—I felt like there are so many messes I’m having trouble picking up, and I can’t seem to reach being able to fix them, anyway.

Before an impending breakdown happened, a woman came up beside me and bent down to start helping me hang the shirts back up. She wasn’t wearing khaki pants and a red shirt, so I knew she wasn’t a Target employee. I told her she didn’t have to do that, but she said, “I know. I want to.”

When I was a teacher, my dodgeball team and I worked together to dominate the students.

We completed the cleanup together, and I thanked her for helping me. I don’t know if she could tell I was on the verge of tears for things far bigger than some shirts on the ground, but she said something that stuck with me.

“You’re here. I’m here. Working together just made more sense to me. I wasn’t about to sit back and watch you clean that up alone or pretend I didn’t see it.”

Working together made more sense to me.

I wish more people had that mindset. There’s a lot going on in our world—and in our nation alone—currently, and I think we sometimes forget the importance of showing people love and grace and letting them know they matter. The woman in Target showed me that at a time when I needed it most. Chances are we’re all going through our own stuff, and we could all use a little bit of grace from one another.

Working together makes more sense.

Remember VHS tapes? Way back in the day, there would often be a little sticker on the VHS tape you rented that said, “Be kind. Please rewind.” It was there to remind you to rewind the tape after you watched it so that it would be ready for the next person. It was a reminder of a simple act of kindness and consideration—helping someone else simply for the purpose of helping someone else.

Maybe we need more sticker reminders. Maybe those “I voted” stickers really translate to “I voted, and I still love you if you didn’t vote or if you voted for someone I didn’t.” But that’s too many words for one small sticker, so it was kept short for space purposes. I’m going to believe it actually means the longer version, though.

Because working together makes more sense.